Once upon a time there was a variety from the Aosta Valley in northern Italy widely planted in the Valais in Switzerland and called Rouge du Pays, 'homeland red', a natural cross between Aostan parents Petit Rouge and Mayolet.
It had disappeared from the Aosta region and was on the point of extinction in the Valais when it was rescued in the 1970s. All good so far. Unfortunately, this rescued variety was renamed Cornalin even though another variety by that name - an offspring of Rouge du Pays - already existed in the Aosta Valley.
Although a return to the original name has been proposed and adopted by some, others prefer to stick to Cornalin du Valais. Whichever name appears on the label, Rouge du Pays/Cornalin du Valais is not easy to grow since is it both vigorous and disease prone.
However, the wines are worth the effort: they typically have a range of peppery black-fruit flavours and are shaped by compact, silky tannins and a bitter-fresh acidity. Try examples from Arte Vinum, Jean-René Germanier, Anne-Catherine & Denis Mercier, Domaine des Muses, Cave La Romaine and Maurice Zufferey.
Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz; www.winegrapes.org
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